Inconsistent Fennelly produced one of his very best performances at Croker

Colin Fennelly has often been accused of performance-inconsistency in the past.

Inconsistent Fennelly produced one of his very best performances at Croker

Colin Fennelly has often been accused of performance-inconsistency in the past.

Everybody knows how much quality the attacker possesses, but his ability to put those qualities on display for Kilkenny time and again, in particular, in the last number of years, has regularly been called into question.

On occasion, Fennelly can be mesmeric. On another, the forward can be subdued and shut-out of an encounter by opposing defences.

However, on St Patrick’s Day, Fennelly produced one of his very best performances at Croke Park.

You could tell he was mad for road inside the opening minutes when he forced a close-range free for Ballyhale at the Hill 16 end as they went on to record a 17-point triumph over an out-classed St Thomas outfit.

And that is the thing about Colin Fennelly, you can almost tell after the first play or two that he is directly involved in whether he will produce a storming display, or not.

Thereafter, he went to another level entirely notching 2-4, all from play, over the course of the 60-plus minutes.

And over the years on All-Ireland club finals-day, there have been so many memorable nuggets delivered by individuals that have illuminated the occasions.

Fennelly added another one of those unique, jaw-dropping moments when executing his second goal.

It was one of those ‘wow’ sketches that occur now and again at the highest level, a piece of skill you could watch back again and again.

It was an audacious flick by Fennelly after Adrian Mullen, who we will get to later, miscued a shot which dropped in front of the St Thomas square.

Fennelly had the presence of mind to appreciate that both defender and goalkeeper would be drawn to the flight of the ball and thought it clever to flick the sliothar back across their momentum and into the opposite corner.

It was sincerely one of the most intelligent executions of a goal attempt I have seen in hurling, especially given what was at stake on the day as well.

But then, we should not be too surprised because we all understand what Fennelly is capable of producing when in the groove.

And that level of skill was on show throughout the contest from Fennelly as he assisted in a number of other scores by developing attacks with deft touches and outstanding foresight.

If, and this is a major if, he can perform to that level for the Cats this year, Brian Cody could build the attack around him, assuming TJ Reid maintains his position further out the field.

Fennelly and Ger Aylward could truly drive Kilkenny on in an attacking capacity this summer.

Back to Mullen. He is another player who we should see much more of in the Leinster SHC as you would imagine he is the type of player that ticks all of the boxes for Cody.

His work-ethic is relentless and his accuracy from shots taken from in and around the middle-third is equally impressive.

He raised five white flags from play and, were it not for Fennelly’s brilliance, would have been a lock for man of the match himself.

Mullen has a serious engine and will represent a thorn in the side of wing-backs in the championship if, indeed, he does nail down a spot on the Kilkenny team.

Henry Shefflin, rightly, was enthused by the overall contributions of the younger members of his Ballyhale unit, though.

He said they ‘believed’ in their ability to see off St Thomas and that certainly seemed to be true of Mullen’s body language.

“I think they just believed,” said Shefflin of his younger players. “That belief is there that if they get an opportunity, they’ll take it. And at the same time, they’re great players.

"No different to the St Thomas’ lads, they applied themselves very well. And when you have Michael Fennelly and Colin Fennelly and Joey Holden and TJ Reid working harder than probably anyone else, then what you are going to do, only follow them?

“That’s the template you have to follow and that’s probably the secret to it.

It’s just about putting in that work and the hours and hours of practice. You imagine all the kids in Ballyhale today, what do they want to do tomorrow morning? They want to go and hurl.

“Little did I think when I took on this job that I was going to end up here,” said Shefflin. “It’s just been an amazing journey, there’s been some amazing days, there’s been some very sad days too, burying Eoin Doyle, one of our panel members.”

Winning an All-Ireland title with his club is a major feather in Shefflin’s cap in terms of potentially getting to lead Kilkenny in the future.

You would think it is an ambition of his down the line and capturing the Tommy Moore Cup as Ballyhale manager will have done his chances of becoming the Cats’ supremo, at some point, no harm at all.

Separately, massive credit must go to the Cork County Board for announcing the ticketing packages they have come up with for club games in the county.

Among many, I was critical of the pricing of county finals on Leeside last season.

Now, however, the Cork County Board should be suitably praised for following the lead of the likes of Tipperary County Board in offering supporters packages which save people money. It is a marvellous move.

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